How to Deal With Clashing Parenting Styles in Shared Custody

Dear Kid Whisperer,

I came to see a parent workshop you did and I used the Love and Logic™ skill that you taught and immersed myself in Love and Logic™ books and other materials. It has changed my life and my relationship with my daughter. The problem is, I am divorced from her father, who has shared custody. He doesn’t have these skills and he is mean and yells at her a lot. I try to tell him how to do what I have learned and I get frustrated when my daughter reports to me about how he yelled at her because she acted out in ways that she never tries with me anymore. How do I get her dad to use these wonderful skills? -Tamara, Nashville, TN



You don’t.

Don’t spend a single second trying to get him to do anything that you are doing. Let that ship sail. Remove it from your mind. No human parent wants to take unsolicited parenting advice about what they are doing wrong from others, especially an ex! You may have been on the other side of this if your mother-in-law has ever been kind enough to inform you of your parental shortcomings.

Instead, allow your ex to fail at being a parent. Because of your immersion in behavior management skill instruction, and because of his lack of behavior management skill instruction, your life with your daughter will become better. His will become worse. Allowing your ex to fail may be difficult, as your ex is parenting your kid, but he’s going to fail anyway. Having constant fights and disagreements about his parenting style just adds another layer onto the dysfunction, as it will impact your relationship negatively. The constant argument may even be more damaging overall than the fact that he’s not doing a good job with your daughter.

From now on don’t engage, fix, or advise. Try to start fresh with an apology. Here’s how I would do it with your ex. You are likely to have this conversation on the phone, so let’s make-believe a phone call.

Kid Whisperer: I am really sorry for having gotten on your case about the way you parent. From now on I won’t bother you with my opinions on parenting. I’ll just ask that you do the same for me.

Ex: Uh… is this a wrong number?

Kid Whisperer: From now on, you parent like you parent, I will parent how I parent, and we can just let each other parent.

Ex: OK, well, you should know that your daughter threw a fit yesterday at the store. She’s out of control. It was really embarrassing. I had to yell at her over and over in front of everyone!

Kid Whisperer: Ugh. That sounds hard.

(Long Pause)

Ex: Yeah. It was.

Kid Whisperer: OK, I’ll pick her up at 2 today. See you soon!

Fight the urge to mention that since you started skilling up, your daughter has not acted like this with you once. He may, hopefully, over time, realize that you are succeeding where he is failing, and will come to you for help. This is, unfortunately, the only realistic chance that he will come over to your new and effective way of parenting.